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A Piece of My Mind
January 24/31, 2007


Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2007;297(4):343-344. doi:10.1001/jama.297.4.343

Some say that a delirious patient is unaware of the situation around him. That may be true. But as I peered into my patient's face, I saw clarity in his venerable eyes. And terror. Smiling down at him reassuringly, I began to organize admission orders and formulate a plan for his care.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an emergency department nurse crouched by his bedside, gripping his hand. Despite the cacophony of beeping monitors and intrusive voices, my attention was drawn to the compassion in her grasp, the concern in her furrowed brow. Immediately impressed by her bedside manner, I paused with my paperwork to watch her. Moments later, a tear trailed from her lower lash to her trembling lip. I had rarely seen such empathy at the university. My thoughts were interrupted by another staff person bellowing for morphine. The nurse mumbled something in response. When nobody reacted, she repeated more clearly, “He's allergic to morphine.” Surprised, everyone turned to her. “I know,” she sighed, “because he's my grandfather.”